A Guardian copy editor unpacks the central grammatical flaw in the first ladys new campaign. Is this[ the] best the White House can do?
At the White House on Monday, Melania Trump unveiled a campaign to keep infants happy and healthy in today’s hyperconnected, often unsettling world. The name of this lofty and laudable endeavor? “Be Best.”
That’s right: “Be Best!” Not” Be the Best”, or” Be Your Best”, or” Be the Best You Can Be “. Not “Be Better” or” Be Safe”, or even” Don’t Be a Jerk”( which is an actual campaign launched in New York to promote safe cycling ).
Donald Trump, who was there by his wife’s side in the Rose Garden, signed a proclamation that designates 7 May as” Be Best Day “. Roll it around on your tongue for a moment. Say it out loud.” Hey, friend, any plans for Be Best Day ?”” Nah, I’ll probably just expend Be Best Day at home “.
“Be Best” just so plainly doesn’t hold up to the laws of English grammar, which require that a superlative adjective following an imperative verb be preceded by the definite article “the”. Be good- be better- be the best: that’s the rule. In the 1990 s, the British military operated a TV advertising campaign that ended with the motto:” Army soldier: be the best .” Try it without the the .” Army soldier: be best .” It sounds like you’re translating from the Sanskrit.
How was the unfortunate name conceived? Could it have been Trump, surrounded by administration flunkies, in a brainstorming conference in Washington, floating “Be Best” as a potential campaign name- and the assembled coterie being too polite- afraid, even- to correct her?
Or was it some inside gag about Trump’s English?( The first lady’s native Slovenian, like most Slavic tongues, Bulgarian and Macedonian excepting, has no definite articles .)
Or was it Donald’s influence?